Gift of the Valar - Chapter 29: The Pilgrim
Bilbo watched Sam trudge off across the party field, looking as if the wieght of the world were upon his sturdy shoulders, then returned to the smial to make preparations for Prody's burial and Chrysanthamum's memorial service.
Sam knew at once where to go, his leaden feet followed the ache in his heart and he soon found himself on the hill that rose behind the old willow. The gently flowing Bywater was teasingly caressed by the gradually falling leaves of the graceful tree. Sam laid himself down upon the hill, and looked for the hobbit he loved and knew so well. As a shift of the wind ruffled Sam's curls, he noticed a parting in the shadowy curtain of the slowly falling leaves, and he looked to see the still form of Frodo huddled against the trunk of the tree. A sob caught in his throat as he thought of the happiness and love that had sprung from hours spent beneath the protective branches of the willow. He stood quietly and made his way but a little closer, not wanting to intrude upon his friend's pain, but needing to see that his ailing body would last this newest assault. He stopped in the shelter of a small knoll a hundred feet from the tree, every fiber of his being longing to go and throw his arms about the forlorn fiqure of his friend to wrap him in what comfort he could give, but he had promised.....
For long moments he just watched as Frodo sat, not moving, not crying, just taking in the gentle beauty of the river. Sam felt a hole open in his heart as he watched Frodo's pale, thin face and luminous eyes stare with quiet self recriminating sadness at the the slow moving water. He didn't know if he'd ever find the words his friend and future master needed to hear, 'where will 'e find 'is comfort now?' he couldn't help but wonder. He wiped a tear from his cheek, he wasn't sure if there were words to ease a pain so deep. He turned, with a sad slump to his stocky frame, and headed back to Bag End.
Frodo stayed his post by the river, not moving, not crying, just staring into the depths of the quietly flowing bywater for nearly two days. Gandalf imposed strict orders that he was not to be disturbed. Bilbo fretted over his nephews self imposed exile, worried that he'd be too cold at night, be hungry or become ill. Gandalf reassured him "he'll return when the time is right Bilbo, all we can do is wait." While all obeyed the Wizards dictates, Bilbo set a watch upon the tree so that if help were needed, it could be there quickly. Sam, the Gaffer, Halfred, Marigold and even Gandalf took turns watching over the grieving hobbit.
On the second day, as the Wizard watched form the shadow of the nearby knoll, he saw Frodo finally succumb to his sadness and fatique, falling and lying moitionless in the shade of the willow's branches. He approached him quietly, not wanting to awaken him should he be only sleeping. He knealt by Frodo's side and wiped a dark curl from his face as he reached to his neck to find his pulse. The pale hobbit was clammy and pale, his body trembling with the effects of low fever. Gandalf moved his hand to wipe the pale brow of his stricken friend only to find his hand held fast in the tremoring grip of another. He stared down to see haunted blue eyes staring beseechingly at him "I am sorry Gandalf" he whispered brokenly " Chrys tried to tell me..." he coughed weakly and the wizard gathered him into the warmth of his arms as he sat beneath the willow and waited for Frodo to continue. "She told me that sometimes things happen merely because it is their time to happen...".
The exhausted hobbit looked to the wizard with such sadness that Gandalf dreaded his next words " I only hope she's right....I should never forgive myself if her death was by my hand." He coughed again and reached a shaking slender hand to grasp the wizard's robe, his eyes boring a hole in Gandalf's eyes asked, "was this chance or design Gandalf....please tell me" he pleaded his heart, already broken, ready to stop beating in it's despair. Gandalf carefully stood up and bundled Frodo carefully in his arms as he began his walk back to Bag End. He sensed Frodo's eyes upon him and struggled to find an answer. He stopped and looked down to reply to Frodo's heartfelt query "it is not for me to truly know such things Frodo...he whispered as he observed the frail hobbit give in to his sadness and exhaustion and fall asleep.
Gandalf and Bilbo cared for Frodo through the night. Zinnia Pettigrew was called upon to stem the tide of his fever and to mix a potent sleeping draught that kept him bedridden for another day.
The morning of Prody's funeral and Chrysanthamum's memorial service dawned clear and chilly. Frodo insisted he would attend, sick or not and so bundled in warm wollens and an extra cloak he gathered with a mourning community of Hobbits in the resting yard of Hobbiton. As Prody was laid to rest, Bilbo spoke words of devoted service, loyalty and uncommon friendship as he described his memories of the healer. Others in the community, as was the custom, stepped forward to offer up their memories. Frodo listened stone faced, with Sam steadfastly by his side, as hobbits from all about the Shire stood to offer their love and thanks to the healer who'd served the folks of the four Farthings for so many years.
Then, it was Frodo's turn to offer the hobbit community words of comfort and loving testimony for his beloved Chrys.
The assembled crowd waited as Frodo stepped forward, but stood silent. He looked about him, seeing the stark angular and cold space around him knew he could not say his 'good byes' in such a place. Turning to Sam and Bilbo he said quietly "Chrys would find no rest here" and he walked from the resting grounds to the path that led to the river.
Bilbo looked to Gandalf for support and the wizard, raising his eyebrow gestured that they should follow. The gathered Hobbits; an assortment of Gamgees, Bracegirdles, Proudfeet, Pettigrews, Bolgers, Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks followed. The crowd moved silently, stopping every once in a while as Frodo would stop, and with his good arm, gather late blooming daisys marigolds, mums and wildflowers from fields and gardens along the way. Sam seemed to sense his friend's purpose and soon added coneflowers, goldenrod and black eyed susans to Frodo's bundle of flowers, a sad but compassionate smile upon his face. In moments Frodo had covered the distance to his destination, and in the process had, through his simple hobbit gesture of finding comfort through nature, won over the hearts of many who'd been ready to ridicule his chosen memorial site.
As all approached the willow tree and watched, Frodo turned his back on the river, and faced his community. Closing his eyes a moment he stood motionless before them. The late afternoon sun glittered upon the windborne ripples of the river, casting a dancing light that made it appear as if the pale hobbit were bathed in a magic spell. As he opened his eyes, the light seemed to eminate from a place deep within the delicate and fine featured hobbit, setting his eyes to a blazing blue that outmatched the cloudless sky in their intensity.
All were spellbound by the vision of a simple earthbound hobbit encased in the glory of the heavens. Frodo began, at long last, to speak. He spoke of a love born from the early healing warmth of spring. He reveled in the glorious fulfillment of Summer's promised ecstasy and of long awaited joy. He told of Autumns fearful harvest and the emptiness of broken dreams. Hobbits who'd never read a story nor heard songs outside of family tales and barn dance merriment, were entranced by the beauty of his words. In later years many spoke of the elvish magic that flowed in the melody of Frodo's heartfelt words. "Chrys was my light, my hope in times of fear and my greatest moment in time" he said as his eyes swept the crowd, stopping on the stricken face of his Uncle "I shall never love another."
He closed his eyes again and lifting his face to the warmth of the sun, as a flower seeking sustenance, looked up to the heavens. He raised his outstretched hand in a gesture of wonder and joy " she was to me a reminder of the most important gift we all pocess....the ability to give and in turn, receive love...love that is open, that accepts the best and the worst in each other without judgement." He lowered his hands and his eyes to stare once more upon his community "Do not squander this gift fellow hobbits, it will someday set us apart from all others in Middle Earth." He gestured to the bundle of flowers at his feet "join with me as I pay tribute to the quiet beauty that Chrys showed me we all have within us, as I celebrate not how she left us, but what her time has left to us." Frodo pulled from his cloak one perfect bloom, a chrysanthamum, which he gently kissed...held a moment in his hand and then tossed to the waiting current of the river. He stepped back into the shadow of the tree as old gaffers, hopeful young lasses, sturdy lads, stalwart patriarches and loving mams with apple cheeked hobbit children floated flowers and farewells upon the gently beauty of the river. Then Frodo walked away.
Sam watched as the months, seasons and years passed Frodo by. It was noted by many how Frodo, his gentle friend and mysterious master took to wandering the Shire more, interacting with all hobbit folk in a polite, kindly yet detached manner. Frodo devoted himself to his mastery of Elvish lore, his knowledge of the geography of far away places and his deep and loyal love of those most dear to him. He seemed only to share his genuine joys, sorrows and dreams with Bilbo and Sam, and later with his spirited cousins Merry and Pippin. Frodo's love for Chrys, which had been the balm for his deeply hidden fears, which had unlocked his insecure heart and brought him such peace, was in the end the wall that separated him from all others. For a while all who had seen his love that day by the river, admired his fervor and envied him his devotion even as they feared his intensity but they begrudged him the solitude his healing heart required.
Sam thought it 'right unfair' that Frodo's most ordinary hobbit emotions could cause such fear and gossip amoung the folk of the Shire. But then, he'd always known, his Mr. Frodo was no ordinary hobbit. He'd heard Miss Chrys, in one 'o her songs, call his Mr. Frodo a "Pilgrim"...someday he would ask just what that was, he was sure his Mr. Frodo would know....but until he knew for sure, he knew for certain that a "pilgrim" was what Frodo would always be....
"Pilgrim, how you journey
on the road you chose
to find out where the winds die
and where the stories go.
All days come from one day
that much you must know,
you cannot change what's over
but only where you go."
Song: "Pilgrim" by Enya
a day without rain CD
Thanks to all who've read and offered their thoughts about my trip into the life of one Frodo Baggins...with each story I write...I think of the words "even the smallest person can change the future"....and while my stories won't change the future....I hope the strength you draw from our hobbits will help you see how 'big' we can all be...
I have another story, "The Faces of War" which is about Frodo, Sam etc. after the war....and how Frodo finds his own dwindling hopes restored by "small persons"....it is published on FanFic.net....enjoy!